The meetings of the Craft during the operative period in the Middle Ages, were called Assemblies, which appear to have been tantamount to the modem Lodges, and they are constantly spoken of in the Old Constitutions. The word Assembly was also often used in these documents to indicate a larger meeting of the whole Craft, which was equivalent to the modem Grand Lodge, and which was held annually. The York Manuscript No. l, about the year 1600, says ''that Edwin procured of ye King his father a charter and commission to hold every year an assembly wherever they would within ye realm of England,'' and this statement, whether true or false, is repeated in all the old records. Preston says, speaking of that medieval period, that''a sufficient number of Masons met together within a certain district, with the consent of the sheriff or chief magistrate of the place, were empowered at this time to make Masons, etc. To this assembly, every Freemason was bound, when summoned, to appear.
Thus, in the Harleian Manuscript, about 1660, it is ordained that "every Master and Fellow come to the Assembly, if it be within five miles about him, if he have any warning." The term General Assembly, to indicate the annual meeting, is said to have been first used at the meeting, held on December 27, 1663, as quoted by Preston. In the Old Constitutions printed in 1722 by Roberts, and which claims to be taken from a manuscript of the eighteenth century, the term used is Yearly Assembly. Anderson speaks of an Old Constitution which used the word General; but his quotations are not always verbally accurate.
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